Karma For Beginners by Jessica Blank

Synopsis: When her mom moves them onto an ashram, a fifteen-year-old girl rebels by falling in love. Review: I was expecting Karma For Beginners to be light and frothy and comic, but the story actually delves into some really dark psychological territory. Tessa’s free-spirited mom has been following her bliss and dragging Tessa along for the ride as long as Tessa can remember, but the ashram ends up being the place where Tessa finds her own true identity. She falls in love with the unreligious…

Read More »

Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan

Synopsis: A quartet of unlikely best friends deal with a post-feminist, post-grad life out of Smith College. Review: The appeal of Commencement is in its depiction of Smith College, caught between poles of conservative femininity and radical lesbianism. Each of the four protagonists deals with life issues that have something to do with the plight of the modern women. Their struggles are portrayed with nuance and pathos, but I wondered if the story would have resonated had it been set in a less idiosyncratic place.…

Read More »

The Water’s Lovely by Ruth Rendell

Synopsis: Convinced her sister murdered their stepfather, a young woman unravels when her relationship ends while her sister’s flourishes, and she wonders whether she should finally tell. Review: The Water’s Lovely is one of Ruth Rendell’s quieter books, with a fineness to it despite the emotional (and sometimes physical) violence that lurks in most of the relationships. While most of the characters have deep emotional flaws, some of them are appealingly good, even brave and admirable, and that’s what kept me really engaged in this…

Read More »

The Alchemist’s Code by Dave Duncan

Synopsis: Nostradamus and his assistant, the dashing Alfeo Zeno, solve a politically motivated murder while keeping their alchemical doings from being discovered by the reigning powers in heavily Catholic 16th Century Venice. Review: I listened to The Alchemist’s Code on audiobook, and wasn’t aware that it was a sequel until looking up the publication date to craft this post. It definitely stands alone as a mystery novel–no backstory needed for enjoyment–but I am now curious about what I missed in the first book. Share on…

Read More »

The Van Alen Legacy by Melissa de la Cruz

Synopsis: Yet another installment in the Blue Bloods series, which follows a group of vampires reincarnated as wealthy New York City prep school kids and their families. Review: Against my better judgment, I decided to give The Van Alen Legacy, book four in the Blue Bloods series, a try. I wasn’t wild about the first three books, but they had an appealing energy so I thought I’d give the series one more chance. I just couldn’t get into it. I couldn’t find any other reasons…

Read More »

His Eyes by ReneƩ Carter

Synopsis: Hired to “babysit” an 18-year-old young man blinded in a riding accident, a high school girl finds herself falling in love. Review: His Eyes is a sweet little story. It has some flaws in the plotting, with one particular character who becomes unrealistically monstrous, but its heart is in the right place. The love story had a lot of warmth to it, and the family dynamics were intriguing all around. Many thanks to ReneĆ© Carter for the review copy. Share on Facebook

Read More »

A Little Help From My Friends by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt (Miracle Girls)

Synopsis: Shy girl Zoe can’t handle her parents’ separation and looming divorce, and she doesn’t know what to do about the attention she’s getting from hot new guy Dean. Review: A Little Help From My Friends was more plot-lite than the previous installments, which I kind of liked. Nothing super dramatic happened, and instead the drama focused on Zoe’s burgeoning independence. The writing is breezy and accessible, as usual, though God played a much smaller role than in previous books. At one point, Ana tells…

Read More »

NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

Synopsis: Subtitled “New Thinking About Children,” shows how some of the new paradigms in education and childrearing are not supported by research data. Review: I had already read some of NurtureShock, since several of the chapters began as articles in “New York” magazine. It’s pretty fun to watch the authors pick apart some current sacred cows, like the purported virtues of educational baby DVDs, or the merits of testing kindergarteners to track them into gifted programs, or the benefits of teaching thankfulness. As a parent…

Read More »

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

Synopsis: After her mother enters rehab and a neighbor girl goes missing, a pastor’s daughter has a crisis of faith. Review: Once Was Lost is yet another strong, character-driven young adult novel by Sara Zarr. I really like how she can tackle dark, complex issues without letting that darkness shroud her writing. You’re never attracted to the dark side in one of her books–you’re always longing for the characters to find the light. As a pastor’s daughter, Samara faces challenges her peers don’t. She has…

Read More »

Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare by Darren Shan

Synopsis: The arrival of a freak show to town turns young Darren’s life upside down as learns that vampires are real–and not necessarily evil. Review: I had to stop reading A Living Nightmare after a vampire called one of Darren’s young friends “evil.” (I’m a mom, I can’t help but be tender-hearted.) Middle grade and YA horror have never been genres I enjoy, because I’m always uncomfortable with darkness being peddled to children. Additionally, I try to avoid books that call evil good and vice…

Read More »